Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leh (3500m) to Khardung La (5359m) - bike race

I am Polish, and last years I was living in Dresden. In both of those places the floods happened. More over all my knees doctors were saying that biking is the best sport for me. I guess those two reason convince me to participate in the FIRST ever bike race from Leh to the highest motorable pass - Khardung La. The way is 39 km and constantly is ascending for almost 2000m. The race was organize in order to help the flood victims.

So I decided to joined.

Start line.
My own aim was to get to the pass on the bike, no matter how long this would take. The day before I manage to find big enough bike for me - which I named Khar (from the place that we were suppose to go together). It was not spectacular bike, but the lower gears worked properly, and it had working V-breaks. On Sunday 7-o'clock in the morning 32 participants gather (both locals and tourists). Apparently I was the only participant from Poland. There was quite a bit of media coverage of our race, there were three different film craws.

Before 8 o'clock we started. The first 20 km were surprisingly easy. I was going with my own speed and did not have to stop for the breathing breaks. There was not many cars on the road, but soon I realize that i do not really see anyone in front of me or behind me.

On my way up.
Every 10 km there were people standing and were providing some basic refreshment. It was really organize like a race!!! Than the tiredness kicked in a bit and after 25th km the quality of the road decreased, there was no more asphalt, but predominantly sand and stones, more over the road got a bit more steeper. But the most tiring were the last 10 km. The road got really bad, I was getting really tired and the concentration of the oxygen in the air dropped a lot. The closest to the end, the most often I had to make some breathing breaks. And finally there was the end, together with my Khar we manage to climb to Khardung La.

Finish line.
At the end I was 13th, it took me 5h 51 minutes and I was the fastest Polish!!! As expected the fastest was an local boy. And seriously I was expecting to be as tired as after getting to Stok Kangri summit, but at the end I was tired a lot, but not completely physically crashed. We got even nice certificate, dinner at the top and a handshake of an important military person. But the best price for all the afford was the possibility to go downhill for 39 km!!! I guess those were my fastest 39 km on bike ever. Wind on the face and amazing scenery in front. Even Kubica would not manage to overtake me. The only problem was to keep in mind that if one sees the car going in the opposite direction, one have to go to the left side of the road and not to the right one. Moreover, I had moments that I was a bit worry about my brakes if they would hold it, but luckily Khar's breaks worked really good when needed.

Actually Khardung La officially is elevated at 5602m, which would not make it the highest motorable pass. But in reality Khardung La is elevated "only" 5359 m (there are higher passes in Tibet). Indian government and Ladakh people are claiming that Khardung La is the highest motorable pass. The exact nomenclature is not the most important for me. It is very high pass and I manage to bike there and this matters.


  1. You are living the dream, eh ?
    I am so very happy for you.

  2. Hi Mikolay, have a god luck for the future in Ladakh.
    Helmut, the camerman from Otsals Guesthouse